Even from the air, gliding above this majestic country in a light aircraft, I could feel a sense of bewilderment and wonder overwhelming me. Zigzagged by undulating indigo waters dancing gracefully on lush grassland of epic scales interspersed with majestic baobabs reaching for the sky, sausage trees bearing great unfamiliar pods and the much-loved iconic leafy marula trees, this landscape seems wildly surreal — perhaps the same way it was 100,000 years ago.
As soon as I touched the ground, this awe-inspiring feeling intensified even more. After all, I’ve arrived at the northwestern part of Botswana; Chobe National Park stands out with its fertile plains, lush forests, vast marshes and arid hinterland dominated by an impressive concentration of wildlife, while the UNESCO World Heritage Okavango Delta is described as one of the last true wildernesses on the planet due to its vastness, untouched freshwater wetland and impressive abundance of wildlife.
While the beauty of landscapes and the magic of animals in their natural habitat can easily conquer any traveller’s heart, I deeply felt the native people or bushmen here are truly compelling, with their powerful connection with nature, acute wisdom, primordial instinct and special relationship with the animals, the sky and the stars. Perhaps they still have the same purpose as their ancestors — to continue keeping the balance between nature, men and animals.
For a sneak peek of what life in possibly the most famous part of Botswana is like, here are some of my favourite images from my maiden trip to this very special land in Africa, the Mother Continent.
Chobe National Park’s riverfront does not only stand out with its patches of lush greenery and lemon-yellow grassland, but also with its rich wildlife including hippos that graze peacefully on the riverbank, herds of majestic elephants and crocodiles.
A tranquil river cruise on the beautiful Chobe river in Chobe National Park will unveil nature’s beauty at every turn from unique encounters with animals such as elephants, hippos, crocodiles, baboons, warthogs and a large variety of birds. It also allows you to cap off your day with a stunning sunset gloriously reflected on the surface of the water.
Okavango Delta is famous for a collection of deep-blue canals that crisscross the terrain. While on safari, intrepid travellers can enjoy a serene ride in a mokoro (a traditional canoe-like vessel used as a popular mode of transport as well as for game viewing). The mokoro usually carries one or two passengers and is maneuvered by skilled locals known as “polers”. Expect to catch a glimpse of birds flying above the canals and even seeing herds of lechwes feeding by the water or sprinting across the water.
In the Okavango Delta, you will often have encounters with beautiful red lechwes, the most common antelopes in the Okavango. They can be seen either in large herds or even grazing alone on the seasonal floodplains in many parts of the delta.
After a long yet rewarding evening game drive, you will be treated to, perhaps, some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. There is a saying that nothing quite matches an African sunset; the sky’s immensity is often splashed with fiery orange-red hues and the combination of stark and leafy trees add to the charm of this unique phenomenon.
The Okavango Delta is renowned for being one of Africa’s top safari areas as it offers a maze of lagoons, channels dotted with wild reeds and high grass, and overgrown islands that teem with wildlife. On game drives, rangers will often go off road for an up-close glimpse of the local wildlife and even cross croc-infested waters that take over the designated roads.
San people also known as the bushmen are considered one of the continent’s oldest inhabitants, with ancestral roots going back to over 30,000 years. During your African sojourn, you can experience an adventure in the bush, where you will learn their unique survivalist and hunting techniques from fashioning their bows and arrows from raw materials found in the wild to foraging for edible plants to building up a fire using brushwood and bits of dried elephant dung and rubbing together two straight wooden sticks.